|Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club |
Just seven years ago Jordan Eberle was a scoring star for the Calgary Buffaloes, leading the team to the gold medal game at the TELUS Cup in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Eberle was named Most Sportsmanlike Player while helping the Buffaloes to a silver medal, losing to the Prince Albert Mintos in triple overtime, the longest game in tournament history.
The 2013 TELUS Cup is currently underway, so we took a trip down memory lane with one of the most dominant players Canadian midget history.
By Jordan Eberle, as told to Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com (February, 2012)
It’s difficult to express the emotion, heartbreak and utter disappointment of a losing effort. As athletes, we don’t want to give an inch; whether it’s on the scoreboard or during a 45-second, give-it-your-all shift, the practices, pain and season-long exhaustion is nothing but an afterthought.
In the heat of battle, it’s about gaining that extra step. As so often is the case, that extra inch can result in the goal we so badly needed that night.
We knew our opponent well, too. Just four months earlier, we met the Prince Albert Mintos in the Bronze Medal game at the Mac’s Midget Tournament in Calgary. That was the easily the biggest moment in my career to that point, which was made even more incredible by scoring twice to help propel our team to victory.
It wasn’t quite the gold that we were after from the outset, but the experience was mind-blowing, and earning a medal of any colour on such a grand stage was a huge accomplishment. Doing it on home ice, representing Calgary and the prestigious Buffaloes organization made it even sweeter.
Maybe it was then that people really started to take note of what we were putting together. Throughout the entire season, we were getting better, night in and night out. And we knew it, bringing unstoppable poise into each battle as we dominated our class. I scored 14 goals, 34 points and felt as though my season was a microcosm of the team’s.
I was improving, every single night.
On and off the ice, we were brothers that were willing to do it all for one another. To this day, it was the closest I’ve ever gotten to my teammates and wouldn’t trade the experience, or relationship with them, for anything.
When the dust settled after our torrid finish, the post-season was a continuation of what we saw throughout the year. Our leading goal-scorer, Mike Connolly, didn’t slow one bit, potting pucks at will while I was close behind, helping us ease through the playoffs, sweeping the final three series’ and winning our division en route to the national championship in Charlottetown.
We knew coming in that it wouldn’t be easy. These were elite teams pitted against one another for a national title. As a 15-year-old who hadn’t quite experienced it before, I wasn’t sure how to deal with it. On the ice, I was in my element, my 'home,' but in reality I was thousands of miles from it and the calming security of my mom’s home-cooked meals.
Fortunately, I didn’t have much time to think. As soon as we arrived, we were thrust into the hotel lobby to be accredited. Our photos were snapped, laminated and sent across the volunteers’ desk space, where a TELUS lanyard affixed our identification.
“2006 TELUS Cup, Jordan Eberle, Player - Calgary Buffaloes,” it read. Suddenly the moment felt very real, and those dripping beads of sweat I wouldn’t normally notice came to mind as I began to visualize the week ahead.
As if that moment didn’t prepare me well enough, our early welcome sure did. Losing several off the hop, we put ourselves in a do-or-die situation -- but we won out and earned a berth in the championship game, anyway, as we all knew we could.
In an instant, we were down 3-0 against those very same Mintos. After Mark Lines scored shorthanded late in the second period to pull us back in it, it was my time to step up. I’ll never forget that moment, early in the third, when I raced down my off wing and snapped the most perfect shot of my career. I can still remember the obnoxious “ping!” as it bounced in off the far post.
Connolly, who was as clutch as can be, scored late to tie it up. With another goal each, overtime was necessary. One period passed. Then another, as more time was required to decide the outcome.
As the second overtime period expired without a goal, we headed back to the dressing room to rest up and prepare for the next one.
Not a single word was spoken, and yet it was eerily defeaning. There was a sense that we were going to pull it off, but the exhaustion overwhelmed the group as the locker room stayed silent until we were needed back on the ice.
I don’t even remember the goal that lost it. That’s a blur, a forgotten memory.
One moment you’re going as hard as can be, legs burning and lungs crying for mercy and the next, everything comes to a screeching halt. I must have played 60 minutes that night -- and it seems like yesterday, still.
While it ended in disappointment, we'd come so far and done so much that season.
It was an irreplaceable, defining moment -- one that truly depicts who I am and what I've become.